News / Edmonton

Daily fantasy sports: Is it gambling?

Some consider it similar and feel it should be regulated

Jake Logan Jones doesn't believe that playing fantasy sports should be considered gambling.

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Kevin Tuong / For Metro

Jake Logan Jones doesn't believe that playing fantasy sports should be considered gambling.

Is the manager of a fantasy football hockey team no different than a gambler at the slots?

A postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta is trying to find the answer to that, by leading research in the emerging area of daily fantasy sports and whether or not it’s gambling.

“It’s a very new phenomenon blending gambling and video games,” said Mark Johnson, in an email to Metro.

Previously a professional poker player, Johnson said he noticed commonalities between poker and fantasy sports betting as a “new phenomenon at the play-money intersection.”

Daily fantasy sports is when an individual acts as a manager and creates his own “fantasy teams” of real-world athletes.

Those selections are then pitted against other manager’s teams in the same sports and they make or lose money depending on the statistics of the players in the real games.

In the U.S, over the last couple of years there has been intense discussion over the legal status of fantasy sports. Some consider it gambling and believe it should be regulated by the state whereas others don’t.

There has been legal action against the only two main daily fantasy sports companies, DraftKings and FanDuel, after accusations of employees playing with insider information. In Aug. 2016, the state of New York passed a bill deeming fantasy sports legal, calling it a game of skill.

Meanwhile in Canada, there has been very little research or discussion on the subject.

Jake Logan Jones, a technical research and marketing specialist in Edmonton, has been participating in fantasy hockey since grade school, although he started doing it for money a few years back.

Jones does not believe it’s actually gambling.

“I think the difference lies in, you have more control in a fantasy draft than you do in straight out gambling,” he said. “The odds are a lot better.”

He said he uses websites which provide all the data like weather and history of players.

“You have access to a lot of data, different elements that help you kind of choose your team,” he said. “Then again, it’s all up to chance anyways, but you have more control over it, rather than like walking into a casino and hitting the slots, where it’s straight out odds.”

Garry Smith, a research specialist for the Alberta Gambling Research Institute said fantasy gaming fits gambling criteria as there are entry fees to participate.

“You’re risking money, the outcome is uncertain, those are the main things to consider,” he said.

Smith said the “element of skill” people talk about is very small and shouldn’t be considered.

“The only skill that’s brought on is through computer,” he said. “That’s not really a skill — that’s setting up the programs that tell you what the best bets are.”

Johnson said he was interested in understanding why people actually participate in daily fantasy sports as well as the current legal battles surrounding their status.

He said he will be interviewing fantasy sports software developers and players and hopes to write the “foundational academic book on fantasy sports betting in the next year or two.”

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